spend a weekend in europe without leaving boston

Boston has always reminded me of Europe, likely because of its pedestrian-friendly streets and beautiful modern/historic architecture. Its resemblance is the reason I fell in love with this city to begin with. I always dream about being back in Europe. But let’s be realistic for a sec, I can’t just hop on a flight after work one day just to get my favorite dessert from Tonolo Pastry. Or can I?

I did some research, which involved a lot of eating (yay!) and found the best way to pretend you’re in Europe while never leaving the city. See my three-day itinerary below!

friday – day 1 

dinner at la voile: Start your vacation off with an adorable dinner after work. La Voile has two locations (one on Newbury and one on Beacon/Washington St.); but don’t worry, they will both make you feel like you’re in the South of France. If you really want to feel French, opt for the escargot as an appetizer and a crème brûlée for dessert – I’ll leave the entree up to you.

saturday – day 2 

breakfast at the patisserie on newbury: Your morning should start with something sweet. You’re on vacation, after all. Choose one of their yummy croissants or a few macarons to really feel like you’re in the heart of Paris. Avoid anything that’s typical or can be easily purchased in Boston or the United States (like red velvet cupcakes!)

early lunch & tea at the boston public library: Walk along Newbury street and enjoy the scenery before heading to the Boston Public Library. You’ll want to head to the historic McKim building right in front of Copley Square. (Avoid the Johnson building this time around as it’s too new and modern for your European trip.) As you walk through the Gallery Lobbies, make sure to note the Venetian elements – the carving of the traditional Lion of St. Mark, names of famous Venetian doges and painters, decorative domes suggesting Venice’s glory, and much more. Then head to the Puvis de Chavannes Gallery to view the famous murals from the French artist, Chavaness. End the indoor tour with a visit to the majestic Bates Hall before heading to the stunning courtyard for lunch and tea. While enjoying your meal and chatting with your travel buddy, view the courtyard in detail – it’s an almost exact replica of the Cancelleria Palace in Rome, Italy. [P.S. more info on each of the galleries and its European elements can be found here.]

walk along the public garden & boston common: Next, you’ll want to head east to enjoy a nice stroll along the stunning Boston Public Garden. The garden is small compared to London’s Hyde park – but trust me, there’s quite a lot to do here. You can take a ride on a swan boat, chase little ducks down the path, take pictures on the bridge, relax on a hill, play at Frog Pond’s spray pool, or act like a kid at the Tadpole Playground.

finish with dinner in the north end: When your stomach starts to growl a little, continue walking east until you reach the north end. You’ll be walking straight into Italy for dinner. Giacomo’s or Panza or Ill Panino are all great options – but honestly, anything here will make you feel like you’re in Rome, Milan, or Florence (depending on the type of restaurant you choose). Don’t forget to end your yummy meal with something even yummier from Bova’s Bakery.

sunday – day 3 

get a crepe at the delicious neighborhoods cafe: You’ve gone to France, Italy, England, and now you’re back in France for your last day in Europe. Look at that, three countries in three days. Neighborhoods Cafe has savory and sweet crepes, so do as you wish. They also serve espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos – it really doesn’t get more European than that.

finish your vacation with a foreign movie at the coolidge corner theater: Once you’ve digested your breakfast and coffee, walk next door to the movie theater to purchase your ticket. (Choose a foreign movie so you don’t ruin the mood!) If you have time before the movie, walk around Harvard St. and stop along some of my favorite Jewish/Eastern European shops like Kupel’s Bakery, the Butcherie, the Israel Book Shop or head to Brookline Booksmith where you can get lost in books from all over the world.

homemade ricotta, probiotic lemonade, and so much more!

I’ve been super MIA lately, I haven’t posted anything on Instagram or my blog in a little over a week and it feels very strange. But hey, I have a legitimate reason why: I’ve been in the kitchen this whole time! It’s due to two things. 1. a ricotta and mozzarella cooking class I took with my friend Andie at Sur La Table. And 2. all the produce I’ve gathered from my garden. (Two zucchinis, two large summer squashes, over five tomatoes, and a ton of fresh herbs.) The Sur La Table class was fun and easy and I couldn’t wait to make ricotta at home. So, I did! The ricotta turned out great and left me with a huge pot of whey. (Which is apparently good for you and can be used in a variety of dishes.) With that, I made probiotic lemonade and summer squash soup. The ricotta I used to make a “vegie dip” to stuff my tomatoes with and a candied lemon ricotta ice cream. It all turned out super delicious and was immediately devoured by Rob and I, so I apologize in advance for the hasty images below.

First thing is first, the ricotta. Don’t be afraid to make it – I promise it’s an easy process. The ricotta can be eaten right away, stored in the fridge for five days, or frozen in an ice cream form.

ricotta (recipe from sur la table)

ingredients

  • Half a gallon of whole milk (pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized)

  • 1/2 teaspoon of very fine sea salt (or cheese salt, if you have that)

  • 2 cups full-fat buttermilk

directions

  1. Place milk in a large saucepan over medium to high heat.

  2. Stir constantly until milk comes to a frothing boil.

  3. Turn off heat. Add salt and buttermilk.

  4. Stir the mixture in one direction until the curd and whey separate.

  5. Remove the pan from the heat, put the lid on, and set aside for 5 minutes.

  6. To separate the cheese from the whey, pour through a strainer lined with a cheese cloth.

  7. Leave the curd to strain from 15 to 30 minutes (I chose to squeeze it a little because I have no patience and it turned out fine!)

stuffed tomatoes

ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes

  • 1 cup ricotta

  • 1 small zucchini

  • ¼ cup corn

  • 1/8 cup panko bread crumbs

  • Salt, pepper, thyme, oregano

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Cut the top of the tomatoes and scoop out the insides. Add a bit of salt in the tomatoes and place upside down over a paper towel.

  3. Cut the zucchini into little pieces while the tomatoes dry out.

  4. Place ricotta, zucchini, corn, and spices in a small bowl and mix with a fork. On a separate plate, place bread crumbs for later use.

  5. Scoop the mixture into the tomatoes until it reaches the top. Turn the tomato upside down and on to the bread crumb plate.

  6. Bake the tomatoes for 10-15 minutes or until the bread crumbs begin to brown.

candied lemon ricotta ice cream

candied lemons – ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • ¾ cup water

directions

  1. Boil water, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan.

  2. Slice the lemon into thin slices and place in the water mixture. Make sure they don’t overlap so they all get a chance to simmer in the syrup.

  3. Cook for 20 minutes while occasionally flipping them over.

  4. Place on top of wax paper and let cool completely before using.

ice cream – ingredients

  • Candied lemon slices

  • Lemon zest from two lemons

  • ¼ milk

  • ½ cup heavy cream

  • 1 ½ cup ricotta

  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

directions

  1. Place ricotta, heavy cream, milk, vanilla extract, and sugar in a medium bowl and mix with a fork, or place in a food processor if you’re feeling lazy.

  2. Transfer the mixture into your ice cream machine.

  3. In the meantime, zest your lemons and thinly chop the candied lemons.

  4. Remove from the machine once the mixture has become a soft-served ice cream consistency. Transfer to a freezer-friendly bowl and mix in chocolate chips, candied lemon, and lemon zest.

  5. Freeze for a few hours to make it into ice cream or eat it as it!

Now that you’ve used up your ricotta, you can focus on making the whey the star! To be completely honest, I rarely like to follow recipes word-by-word unless it’s for baked goods. Playing around with other recipes, adding/eliminating what you want not only makes it your own but also makes it what you want to eat. (Isn’t that what cooking is all about?) The recipe for the summer squash soup is based on what I had in my pantry and garden. It’s a vegetable soup people – let’s not make it too complicated. P.S. I didn’t include the ingredients for a reason, so just follow the directions with your favorite vegetables and herbs, a summer squash, one cup of whey, and some milk (around half a cup) and I promise it will turnout just right!

summer squash soup

directions

  1. Cut the squash and any other hard veggies like zucchini into quarter pieces and cook in a pan over medium heat with PAM, olive oil, butter – whatever you want. Add all the spices and herbs (paprika, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric are a few of the ones I added) and cook until you can pierce a fork into it without resistance or until it begins to brown on all sides.

  2. Place squash and other veggies, milk, and whey into a blender. Cover the blender with a towel and mix until smooth. (Covering the blender with a towel instead of with its top will prevent the pressure build-up to blow the top off/cause the food to explode and possibly burn you.)

  3. Optional: when serving, add crumbled goat cheese and parmesan to the soup. I don’t know about you, but I love adding cold cheese to a hot soup and let the magic happen!

(To make the croutons, simply cut up a few bagels, season them olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme and pop in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes – until they begin to brown.)

probiotic lemonade

ingredients

  • 6 cups water

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1 cup lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup fresh whey

directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 cup water, sugar, and honey over medium heat.

  2. Remove once the honey/sugar has fully dissolved.

  3. Pour the honey water, the rest of the water, whey, and lemon juice into a large bottle and chill.

  4. Tip: If you make the candied lemons from the ice cream recipe above, feel free to add the leftover syrup in here as well – it will taste delicious!

new foodie spot: pvdonuts

I cannot even begin to express how excited I was when I woke up this past Saturday morning. It was finally time to drive down to Providence and get a few of the famous PVDonuts. Rob and I had planned out the entire day based around the donut shop. We’d pick up a few donuts, go blueberry picking in Newport, and end the day at the Newport Vineyards.

We got to the shop around 11 a.m. only to find people waiting in a line outside the store front. What is this, Manhattan’s DŌ? Luckily, it was not. We got to the entrance in less than 10 minutes. Phew.

The inside of the shop was surprisingly cute. The walls are decorated with donut posters and urban outfitters style illustrations. Even though it’s small, it can still sit quite a few people. There are couches with donut shaped pillows and high tables with stools.

They have a huge variety of donuts, many of which change on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis. One thing that usually stays the same is their variety of dough – they have vegan, old fashioned, brioche, cake, and filled. I’m pretty sure we got all, if not, most of them. The cake ones are wayyy too cake-y, and that’s coming from someone who generally only gets cake donuts. Avoid any chocolate based donuts, the two we got were “eh.”

My absolutely favorite and the types of donut you must try are the old fashioned and the brioche. If they still have the zebra, blueberry little bites or strawberry pop-tart when you go, I urge you to get one of those. I promise you won’t regret it.

portable s’mores (recipe)

I’ve been in the kitchen a lot this week… like a lot. (Or at least it just feels that way.) Besides my usual meal prep, I’ve also starting prepping my morning smoothies. I’ve made ice cream, candied lemon slices, and portable s’mores! Yup that’s right, portable s’mores.

So how did this come about? Two reasons. One – I don’t have a gas stove, so making traditionally s’mores at home is pretty impossible for me. Two – it was our summer intern’s last day on Wednesday and I needed something that could travel to work easily. (Ice cream sandwiches were out the question, which is annoying because I’ve been dying to make them.) So, I came up with my portable s’mores recipe. I didn’t make a s’mores brownie pie (like I’ve seen others do) because quite frankly, it doesn’t really resemble a s’mores the way I want it to.

The recipe is super duper simple and probably only took me an hour in total. All you need to make is a simple graham cracker crust and a chocolate ganache, then you top it all off with a big marshmallow. If you’re going to transport this, make sure to reheat it in a toaster/oven before serving. You want it to resemble a real, in-the-moment s’mores as much as possible.

graham cracker crust

I took this directly from sally’s baking addiction – it only requires one tool and three ingredients. It’s also a bit sweet, which pairs perfectly with my dark chocolate ganache.

ingredients

  • 10 full sheets graham crackers

  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter (melted)

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

directions

Line a muffin pan with baking cups or cupcake liners (whatever you want to call them) and preheat the oven to 300°F.

  1. Grind the crackers in a food processor or blender. In the meantime, melt the butter in the microwave or on the stove top. (I always opt for the microwave because I’m lazy.)

  2. Transfer the cracker crumbs into a heat-resistant bowl and mix with sugar. Pour the melted butter and mix with a spatula until it feels sandy and thick.

  3. With a melon scooper, scoop two “balls” of crumbs in each cup. Then press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides. I used the bottom of a ¼ measure cup to really press it down and around, but your fingers work well too.

  4. Bake it for 10 minutes and let cool a little before adding in the ganache.

 

chocolate ganache

ingredients

  • 8 oz dark chocolate

  • 1 cup heavy cream

directions

  1. Place chocolate chips or bars into a food processor and chop until the pieces are a little larger than the size of a sprinkle. (You can also chop them up by hand.) Place into a heat-resistant bowl.

  2. Heat the cream in a sauce pan over medium heat until it comes to boil. (It will boil over the pot if you don’t watch it carefully, so just be aware.) Once it’s at a boil, pour over the chocolate and let sit for 3-5 minutes.

  3. Whisk until smooth and let it cool slightly before using.

 

Now to finish assembling the portable s’mores….

  1. Place your oven on the broiler setting and move the rack to the highest position.

  2. Using a melon scooper, pour one scoop of chocolate into each cup.

  3. Place a marshmallow on top of each cup and then place the pan into the oven.

  4. It’s all set when the marshmallows begin to darken to a medium brown. This can take seconds, depending on your broiler, so make sure to watch it at all times.

  5. Optional: When the marshmallows are still hot, insert a little piece of graham cracker in each marshmallow and drizzle with salted caramel or cajeta.

 

P.S. I also ended up going to my rooftop’s grill the next day (yes, I’m lucky enough to live in an apartment that offers that) and make real s’mores!

nine-day trip to iceland (itinerary & map)

a lot of people have been asking me to send them my iceland itinerary, so i figured i might as well post it here. my trip was a total of nine days, which was enough time to get around the entire island. however, we did have two extra days in reykjavik, so if you need to make it a seven-day trip, i don’t think you would have an issue with it. below you will find the following: the full itinerary, tips regarding the itinerary, and the map.

click here to download the itinerary and follow along as i provide tips for some of the main attractions.

day one

selavallalaug (secret pool)

okay, so it might not be such a secret anymore. but i still think this place is pretty cool. it’s actually a little hard to find at first, so listen up. you’re going to pull into where the map tells you to, park your car and head towards the mountains. it’s around a 15-20 minute walk, in which you will have to cross a small waterfall. have your hiking boots on, you don’t want to get stuck walking for a mile or so with sandals – not fun.

rutshellir

when heading to skogafoss, be on the look out for an adorable little house inside a mountain. you’ll likely see a few photographers there also getting that money shot.

skogafoss

this waterfall is pretty spectacular, specially if it’s the first one you see in iceland. you are able to walk behind it, so make sure to bring your rain jacket and protective camera gear with you on this stop.

solheimasandur plane wreck

there’s this abandoned us navy airplane that is honestly pretty cool. you’ll have to park your car in the designated slot and walk 4 km to the plane. the walk isn’t hard, it’s just long. there will come a point that you’ll think you will never get there – but i promise you will.

day two

fjadrargljufur

they say this is one of the most beautiful canyons – and they are right. if you’re heading around this area, don’t forget to stop here. it’s a pretty easy walk up to the canyon, so you don’t need to get prepared for a full on hike or anything like that.

jokuslarolon

we booked a tour on an amphibian boat so we could get a closer look at the glaciers on the lagoon, but really, the glaciers are awesome regardless of where you see them from. they also have private tours on rafts and other glacier activities, so make sure you search a little before deciding on one.

ishusid pizzeria

there’s going to be a point (or several) where you won’t realize just how late it is. it never really got dark there when we went in late may/early june – so you can only image how many times we skipped dinner. we stumbled (through the help of yelp, of course) into this pizzeria at around 10 p.m. and had a fantastic meal. the place is new and super on trend. they have cozy seating, a cool atmosphere, and an great view of the harbor.

house on the hill

when it comes to booking hotels, i highly suggest going through booking.com. they really help you stay organized and the reviews/photos in there are super helpful. i needed to call out this hotel, because i just found it so adorable and pretty cheap. this literal house on the hill offers private rooms with a shared bathroom and kitchenette or completely private room/bathroom with a shared kitchenette. we went for the shared bathroom option and were amazed at how clean it was. the rooms were adorable, filled with sunlight and decked out with little sofas and a flat screen TV. the kitchenette had everything you needed, from a coffee maker (and coffee beans) to a toaster to a huge fridge that had a slot designated for each room. plus, they refilled their cookie jar every day.

day three

atv tour

while day three is pretty spectacular due to the amazing views you will find along the costal route, there aren’t really any must-see’s in this area. a lot of your day depends on the weather and the views you want to stop and capture. so if you’re looking for some adventure, i highly recommend this atv tour in the forest of hallormsstaðu. the owner is super relaxed, so just email him to book it and that’s it! you’ll pull up to this random area up on the hill and go from there. (p.s. he takes credit card, as does everyone else in the island, so don’t even worry about exchanging money.)

day four

karfla power plant

okay so this plant is actually pretty weird (in a good way). tours are available starting in june. so don’t be idiots like rob and i who went on may 30. if you don’t want to take the tour, i still suggest driving through this alien plant. it will smell like rotten eggs the entire time (it’s the sulfur), but it’s worth it. look out for the krafla viti crater, which is right through the plant and up the hill.

hverarond

not far from the plant are these really cool hot springs. the also spell like hell, but you can walk around them and pretend like you’re in mars the entire time.

myvant nature baths

we finished our busy day at this nature bath, which was nicely located just a few minutes from our hotel. it’s a very small version of blue lagoon, so it’s not a must, but it’s still nice to just sit down and relax. i do have to warn you that if it’s very cold outside, the water temperature also drops. they do lower the entrance fee, but it’s still not as enjoyable as you’d hope.

day five

lava cave

i didn’t get to do this, but i’m highly suggesting it based of pictures and reviews i saw.

viking rafting

white water rafting in a glacier-turned-lake is by far one of the coolest things we got to do. plus, this place takes really good care of you. they give you a full dry suit (minus the gloves), hot chocolate, and an adorable cottage to hang out before and/or after your adventure. they also provide dinner or lunch for an additional fee.

day six

akranes

there’s a cute little town about an hour before reykjavik that i highly suggest making it a pit stop. here, you will find two lighthouses(one of which you can actually go inside of) and a rusty old boat, which photographers love.

day seven

fridheimar farm

if you’re not a fan of tomatoes, then skip this entirely. this tomato farm offers a tomato-only lunch inside their greenhouse. so not only will you get to see the tomatoes they grow, but also get to taste them in multiple forms. they serve their famous tomato soup on buffet and offer a variety of tomato based foods, drinks (alcoholic and not), and desserts.

day eight

reykjavik

as you might have guessed, the city itself isn’t really that big. there’s a ton of food and drink options, but as far as cultural activities go, I’m afraid there’s not as many. however, i do highly recommend visiting the harpa concert hall and the hallgrimskirkja church.

day nine

solhestar

i recommend this place for three reasons. 1. i had a great experience here. 2. it’s close to reykjavik and only 40ish minutes from blue lagoon. 3. they offer private horseback ridings sessions, which gives you the freedom to choose the time that works for you and not the other way around. we didn’t make a reservation here since we kinda did it on a whim, but i highly suggest you do – particularly if you are going later in the season.

blue lagoon

i left the best for last for a reason. having a time to relax at the spa before heading back to the hecticness that is life is a must. you’ve just spent nine days road tripping, hiking, and exploring. now, you need to rest and enjoy yourself. make sure you get your reservations for the blue lagoon way before your trip to ensure your seat. you don’t want to go to iceland and miss this – that would be awkward.